Silver Lake's Neutra Gallery features an exhibition inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Black Lives Matter and Silver Lake diversity. Organized by Steve Meek of the Los Feliz & Silver Lake Community Guide and sponsored by Baller Art Ware, children to adults expressed how they identified with a world of acceptance and peace. HOPE for UNITY Art Exhibition Friday, Nov. 13, 4:00 - 8:00 PM; Friday Nov. 20, 4:00 - 8:00 PM; Sunday, Nov. 22, 4:00 - 8:00 PM; (Awards Ceremony 7:00 PM... Artists take their art at that time) Arrive earlier to see entire exhibition) No mask, no entry. Social distancing. 10 people at a time.
Partial interview with the organizer, Steve Meek:
I’ve never forgotten my 4th grade teacher Ms. Nicenson from Wilson Elementary School in Long Island, New York. She taught us about Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. We made the multi-colored construction paper hand cut-outs and turned them into posters or art projects. 1968, (my 4th grade), was the year that Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated. It crushed our beloved teacher and our spirits as well. It was a difficult year. I never forgot her though. She’s always been a part of who I am.
In 1972, I moved from that school with hardly any diversity, to King Junior High with students from around the world, and many different cultural backgrounds. I found myself in multicultural nirvana and enjoyed the experience and my new friends very much. That experience continued at John Marshall High School where I continued my studies, especially enjoying the drama department.
In the early 90s, I produced a play called “Faces of America” out of the Los Angeles Theater Center, and sent that one-woman show, dealing with multicultural issues, to 60 cities a year for 5 years. That was my first experience officially working in the diversity world as a project or an occupation. I have since worked in marketing for the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, and as an actor for The Towne Street Theatre, the premier African American theater company in Los Angeles, to name a couple.
I was inspired by the BLM peaceful protests that swept the country
and the world, following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among many others, in May and June.
Being 62 and possibly in a high risk category for Covid-19, I couldn’t march — But I wanted to do something; make some sort of contribution. I thought of Ms. Nicenson and also the peace poster contests we did through the Los Feliz Lions Club years prior. I thought of a racial equality art show for Cultural Diversity Month in October with possible music and theater; mariachis, Black Gospel singers, Motown, peace, love and harmony songs from the 60’s and 70’s. I wanted to “go big or go home” but it soon became apparent with the pandemic that those elements wouldn’t be possible this year.
I met Dulce Stein, the Chief Curator at The Neutra Museum & Gallery. I told her my idea and she offered me the gallery for the month. Having published the Los Feliz & Silver Lake Community Guide, I had many advertising contacts in the community as well as a graphic designer. We began designing a logo and working on letters to be emailed, explaining the project to educators, advertisers and the community. Baller Art Ware/ Hardware became my major sponsor fairly early in the effort,
enabling me to offer prizes to the artists, and pay for some of the administration costs.
The real work work though would be in calling every school in the Greater Griffith Park area, public and private, and inviting them to motivate their students and participate. I left messages for art teachers, administrators, Principals, and Professors— Elementary, Middle School, High School, College and adult artists too.
Most of the summer was like walking into the desert without water and no oasis in sight. That’s my drama or writing background I guess, but it was pretty bleak— I wondered if I would have a contest/exhibit and no one would enter.
Ms. Joi Robinson was my first teacher, I believe, who committed to encouraging her students to participate at OMGC in the 7th grade. She wasn’t even an official art teacher, but she saw value in the program. Around the same time, Ms. Liza Rizzo from King Middle School also corralled a dozen or so students to participate. Both of these wonderful teachers served as “my light at the end of the tunnel” but it took months to get there. Palms Middle School on the west side later joined in, and the middle schoolers have the largest room in the gallery with 33 art pieces combined.
An older man, as he was walking around the gallery at the opening night reception, said, “All of the artists in this gallery, of all ages, could solve the problems of the world in no time.” Truer words were never spoken.
All the students who participated in this program are, indeed, our real Hope for Unity. You’re our hope for the future, for greater communication, for greater dialogue, for social and racial justice, and a world where all these descriptor words no longer become necessary. No labels, no divisions, no hyphens— People are just people.
Not all of the great things that we do in our lifetime are related to making money. We’re all capable of making great contributions with just an investment of time and good intentions. Your parents and teachers get to do great things for you guys all the time. I never had any kids, though I’m a proud favorite Uncle to some. Still, I can’t tell you what an honor it’s been to see your important artistic creations, and to have been a part of that. It’s just one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and I know that Ms. Nicenson would be smiling right now wherever she is.